We’ve seen the wedding and event landscape place a bigger priority on the guest experience as clients recognize that even the most beautiful events are not memorable without engaging their guests. Well, the same goes for our marketing strategies; the highly-curated Instagram feeds and aesthetically pleasing websites are excellent tools, but they fail to connect on a personal level with generations of clients that have been sold to online for most of their life.
Millennials and Generation Z want more out of their purchases, especially when it comes to planning (and funding) a major event. Experiential marketing may sound like a new term to you, but the idea has been around for years. Think about the car buying process: You can see all the advertisements and read up on the specs, but you’re not going to purchase a car without test driving it.
Experiential marketing offers you a way to give prospective clients a type of “test drive” with your business in a way that engages them to become lifelong customers. Let’s dig into the idea and how you can get started with experiential marketing.
What is experiential marketing?
Experiential marketing is a form of marketing that draws in your audience to interact with your brand in a real-world setting. It’s not a social media ad designed for the masses or an editorial in a publication; it’s a hands-on experience that personally engages individuals in your market. Although it is intended to increase business, experiential marketing isn’t a sales ploy — instead, it’s a way for prospects to get to know your brand and build trust in your work.
That’s not to say you should ditch all of your traditional marketing efforts. You should still be keeping up with your normal strategies, but it’s worth introducing a few experiential events throughout the year to build your reputation within your community and connect with new leads.
Examples of experiential marketing
Since experiential marketing is so—well—experiential, it’s hard to describe the concept in words. But these examples should help you get a better grasp for what it looks like:
The Big Fake Wedding: While a typical wedding show may seem “experiential” at its core, many consumers find it to be too sales-focused and, from the professionals’ side, you don’t always get a great platform to showcase your services. The Big Fake Wedding is an annual event that solves this on both ends by turning a traditional wedding show into a fully-immersive “wedding” with engaged couples filling in as guests.
The Wedding Party Fest: 12 couples. 30 restaurants. 2,000 guests. One extraordinary multi-wedding. The Wedding Party Fest is another annual event, but it brings together real couples, their guests, and some happily-welcomed wedding crashers to put on a festival dedicated to love. All of the couples get married with the help of the vendors and restaurants, which get to collaborate and put on an immersive show for thousands of people.
These events may seem grand, but rest assured experiential marketing can happen on any level. Perhaps it’s a collaborative event in your market, a partnership with a local non-profit, or a virtual experience for all to join. There are no “rules” to follow, so put on your creative hat and get to brainstorming.
Getting started with experiential marketing
Before making any changes to your existing marketing plan, you need to understand the market that you want to reach. Dig into your analytics and figure out where your clients are coming from and what draws them to your brand. Speak with your existing clients to learn why they booked you and work from there.
This insight will show you what your reputation looks like and how you can reach similar leads through experiential marketing. Consider your big-picture goals and design an innovative strategy that keeps you on-track with your objectives while pushing you outside of your comfort zone. That is, after all, where all of the excitement happens!
Although this form of marketing isn’t always a simple endeavor, it goes a long way in making an impact on your brand reputation and attracting the perfect client. Bring in some of your favorite creative partners and have fun with it!
Kinsey Roberts is a marketing strategist for wedding professionals as well as the co-owner of Vista View Events, and a podcast host of two successful shows, She Creates Business and The Venue Podcast. Her passion is helping wedding pros build their marketing efforts and content strategy which she does through consultations and speaking national speaking conferences. She also offers courses on creating a Profitable Podcast.